"What am I missing here?" These were the words uttered to me by Sam after he predicted a Hawks series win in 5 or 6 before this series started. My response: "I don't know." Believe me when I tell you that Sam's logic was sound; the Hawks are the more talented team, they were one of (if not the) hottest teams in the league heading into the playoffs, and Phoenix just doesn't impress you on paper. It's tough to figure out how the Yotes manage to capitalize on seemingly every mistake the Hawks make, and the talented Hawks can't manage to return the favor. It's like playing a euchre team who really isn't all that good, yet somehow they come out on top.........sometimes it's just the cards.
For two periods, the Hawks controlled much of the play and out shot the Yotes 23-10, but could not solve Mike Smith. The Hawks survived the Coyotes early third period flurry, and just when they were starting to settle down, Shane Doan picked Johnny Oduya's pocket and cleaned up the Whitney rebound to open the scoring. About 40 seconds later, the Bolland line lost a board battle to Pyatt and Vrbata which lead to an opening centering feed from Vermette to Pyatt for the insurance tally. The Hawks caught a break midway through the final frame as Brendan Morrison was able to get a slapper past Smith from the right circle thanks to the stick of Rusty Klesla.
The Morrison goal breathed life back into the UC crowd and the Hawks pushed for the equalizer for the bulk of the remaining time. After yet another failed powerplay, and then a killed one, the 36 Mafia line (along with Leddy and Oduya) produced a phenomenal shift with under two minutes to play. As Crawford left the ice for the extra attacker, Bolland took an Oduya feed and patiently waited for an opening; Bolland's backhand shot somehow settled just to Smith's right and Michael Frolik was there to tap it home.
For the fourth straight game, these two teams needed extra time to determine a victor. After a great shift by the Toews line a minute and a half into OT, Boyd Gordon chipped the puck past a pinching Sean O'Donnell and onto the tape of Mikkel Boedker. Boedker took advantage of Nick Leddy's clinic in indecisiveness and got a step on the young Dman; Boedker powered to the net and found a way to slip the puck under the pads of Corey Crawford for his second straight soft OT winner. Game. Set. Match?
- Let's just start with the OT goal shall we? I'm sure Sean O'Donnell's decision to pinch will enrage many, and a decade ago, it might not have been a bad decision for OD. The Hawks just came out of a scoring chance and the Yotes were scrambling, his D partner was initially in position to back him up, and there was a backchecker who appeared to be coming back in the event of a failed keep in attempt. Unfortunately for OD 1) He's old as shit and can't make that play anymore, 2) Nick Leddy was the D partner that was backing him up, and 3) Andrew Brunette was the backchecking forward. Let's get something straight, the goal was on Crow. It's the second game in a row that Corey Crawford let in an inexcusably bad goal that cost his team the game. Now that we got that out of the way, and if the Hawks don't win the next three games, one of the lasting memories of these playoffs will be Andrew Brunette flailing at Boedker like a retirement home patient trying to obtain a TV remote that's painfully out of reach, all while Nick Leddy could do very little to derail the Mikkel Boedker Express. Sad times.
- Remember when Johnny Oduya was the league's best trade deadline pickup? It seems like forever ago......
- Nick Leddy's only 21, Nick Leddy's only 21, Nick Leddy's only 21. Give it a try folks, it might make you feel better for just a second; then again, it might not. Goals 1 and 3 featured Leddy indecisiveness that should almost be trademarked at this point. On the game's opening goal, Leddy failed to bail his partner out, as he spun like a top trying to figure out whether to block the shot or stay in position to clear the rebound; it was a tough spot for the kid (he didn't turn the puck over, and Bolland wasn't much help coming back), but whatever it was that he was doing looked downright silly. The OT goal was far more egregious an error for Nick. In that situation, Leddy has to know that he's the free safety, the last line of defense in a Cover 1, and he blew it. Again, Oduya and Crow respectively, are Public Enemy Number 1 on those two goals, but sometimes you have to be able to bail your teammates out. Nick Leddy's only 21, Nick Leddy's only 21, serenity now, insanity later..
- The Bolland line was on the ice for both third period Phoenix goals, but it's almost forgivable considering the fact that they seemed to be the only line that was generating consistent offensive pressure in this game. Three-six mafia has been phenomenal in this series.
- The tying goal in Game 2 was clutch, but outside of that, Patrick Sharp just hasn't brought it for the first four games of these playoffs. With that said, Kruger and Stalberg haven't been very good either.
- This is one of the few, but major points of contention between myself and the TOS this season.........I have very little use for Andrew Brunette's game at this stage of his career. Bruno has a skillset, which is more than can be said for a guy like Tomas Kopecky (stay with me here), but when I watch Bruno forecheck and backcheck I get this feeling of extreme annoyance that I haven't felt since I watched Kopecky spend the better part of two seasons in Chicago skating with his head down at all times. I'm in no way making Bruno a scapegoat for the 3-1 deficit, but I'm venting right now and I'm prone to projecting when I vent.
- Dude, how sweet was that staged playoff fight 5 minutes into the game? Not sweet at all.
- Here's a stat that tells a story for a team that's struggling to get pucks past Mike Smith: BLOCKED SHOTS (stop yelling at me) - Hawks 6 - Yotes 21.
- Seabs was fighting it a bit tonight, and maybe that's to be expected when one skates four straight games at 30+ minutes per game. With that being said, Seabs should get some of the blame for Pyatt's goal as he continued to glide backward while Pyatt tucked one home right in front of his face.
- Hey, at least BMO got his first point as a Hawk in clutch fashion. That's got to make you feel good.....right? Right?
- I hate our powerplay more than I ever hated Tomas Kopecky.
- 3 Hawks powerplays to Phoenix's 2 with anther two brutal missed calls tonight (sharp gets high sticked on the PP, and Bickell was tripped on a rush). So much for the whole market correction thing (again, not a jab at Sam).
While the intro to this post sounds like an apathetic eulogy, we all know that it ain't over till it's over. When many of you lay your head down to the pillow tonight (assuming you haven't already), you'll remind yourself that the Hawks won three straight playoff games against all odds last season; maybe they can do it again.......maybe.